In FAR part 103 when they are talking about visibility requirements for flying an ultralight, sometimes instead of giving exact distances, they will just say "clear of clouds".

For example:

      Flight altitudes             /1/       Minimum distance from clouds
1,200 feet or less above the
surface regardless of MSL
(1) Within controlled airspace      3       500 feet below, 1,000 feet above, 2,000 feet horizontal.
(2) Outside controlled airspace     1       Clear of clouds.

Or here:

          Airspace                visibility        Distance from clouds

Class G:
1,200 feet or less above the 
surface (regardless of MSL
altitude)                       1 statute mile   Clear of clouds.
More than 1,200 feet above the
surface but less than 10,000
feet MSL                        1 statute mile   500 feet below.
                                                 1,000 feet above.
                                                 2,000 feet horizontal.

What does "Clear of Clouds" mean in this context? Just that I should remain clear of the clouds, or does it mean that the sky must be clear of clouds in the defined space?

And if it does just mean I need to stay "clear of the clouds", how exactly is that defined? 1000ft? 100ft? 10ft? What exactly?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ keep clear of them. don't go in them. $\endgroup$
    – Octopus
    Jul 17, 2015 at 18:40

2 Answers 2


It means you have to stay outside the cloud while flying. You're expected to use your own good judgment (remember it is illegal to fly into the cloud, and if you don't have proper instruments and know what you're doing, it's downright deadly) but there is no minimum clearance as there is at other times, so if you really felt like a daredevil you could reach out and touch a low-hanging "popcorn cloud" with your wingtip. This term is often used in situations where vertical separation minima from clouds is not practical (to stay 500 feet underneath a VMC-friendly cloud layer would require altitudes as low as 500 feet AGL; there are a lot of hazards to navigation at that height from radio antennae to city skylines)

  • $\begingroup$ The term also shows up in controlled airspace sometimes (Class B airspace, when you're under positive control of ATC, requires VFR traffic to remain "clear of clouds" ; Class C/D airspace when operating on a Special VFR clearance reduces the requirement to "clear of clouds" as well). $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Jul 17, 2015 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Edited; the text in the OP includes an old section no longer in effect which required ultralights to simply remain "clear of clouds" at less than 1,200 feet in uncontrolled airspace and a standard minima within; the new regs read slightly differently. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Jul 17, 2015 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ If you link me the new regs I'll substitute it in, I was having a hard time finding the official ones for some reason, and then I made an assumption about the accuracy of a non official site that was, well, wrong... $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Jul 17, 2015 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ The document you linked to has the latest regs, but also has the older ones for reference. Here's the most recent I can find last amended 2014: ushpa.aero/documents/sop/sop-12-04.pdf $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Jul 17, 2015 at 18:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Here's the very latest from the FAA's EFCR site: ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/… $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Jul 17, 2015 at 18:52

Clear of clouds means you should not fly through clouds. You may get as near as comfortable to clouds, but flying into a cloud is still prohibited. There is no definition with a particular distance that I am aware of.


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